UPDATE: April 7, 2016

Breckenridge has built a reputation for its adrenaline-pumping adventures, from snowboard parks to wild mountain bike rides. But it’s also a laid-back mountain town that’s attracting more and more retirees to enjoy its cool, entertaining summers and active winters.

Here’s a guide to Breckenridge for retired guests and residents — or those who want to take it easy, or not, in the sunshine-drenched Victorian town.

Victorian homes, gold panning history

With backcountry hikes, ghost tours and museums in historic homes, the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance brings history to life. Photo by Liam Doran

With backcountry hikes, ghost tours and museums in historic homes, the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance brings history to life. Photo by Liam Doran

On August 10, 1859, the first gold nugget was discovered along the Blue River, and that’s all it took. Men built a fort, and within three months, the new town of “Breckinridge” took root.

The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance has done an amazing job preserving, restoring and presenting the history of Breckenridge.

All of the museums, which aren’t just any buildings, but actual restored homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s, are free, with donations accepted. The alliance also offers guided historic walks, a haunted tour, a saloon tour and other events.

Fascinating characters come to life as you walk into homes like Barney Ford’s and Edwin Carter’s. Ford was an escaped slave, who became a prominent business man in Breckenridge and beyond, while Carter’s (nearly 3,300) animal specimens formed the core of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s collection.

In 2015, the alliance debuted Breckenridge’s first and only archive room, in the Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center at 103 S. Harris St. Now, visitors can peruse newspapers, photographs, maps, records and rare books totaling more than 1,400 in number. Later that summer, the alliance added a restored sawmill to its exhibit on Monroe Road.

What began as one Engine (No. 9) has grown into an outdoor railroad history museum, complete with rotary snowplow and other exhibits, right in front of the Stephen C. West Ice Arena, on the south end of town.

The Breckenridge Distillery Tasting Room (on the Blue River Plaza) offers free tastings. But take the time to visit the Airport Road distilling facility for free tours -- it's worth it! Photo by Jessie Unruh

The Breckenridge Distillery Tasting Room (on the Blue River Plaza) offers free tastings. But take the time to visit the Airport Road distilling facility for free tours — it’s worth it! Photo by Jessie Unruh

Several tours will tickle your imagination of what life used to be like in the rough-and-tumble land of Breckenridge. Behind Swinging Doors Saloon Tour takes you both into historic bars like the Gold Pan, as well as new sites like the Breckenridge Distillery. The Haunted Tour brings to life female apparitions spotted hanging out on second floors, and more. Or check out the Tombstone Tales at Twilight Tour in Breckenridge’s historic cemetery. Gold panning and miner’s hikes abound, with dredge hikes, ghost town tours and gold and silver mine tours.

Another mine tour, operated by a private entity, gives great underground tours, complete with a restored compressor house, a 1,000-foot expedition into the mine and gold panning to your heart’s delight. Country Boy Mine is worth the trek up the hill.

For Breckenridge Heritage Alliance tours on the fly, stop into the Breckenridge Welcome Center at 203 S. Main Street, which, in and of itself is a cool ski and mining history museum.

 

Breckenridge Art and Culture

The Breckenridge art scene has been taking off. The new Arts District campus offers more classes than a person could possibly take in a month, from drawing and creative writing, to dance, metal smithing, jewelry making, ceramics, textiles and more. Each class takes place in a restored historic building, making it an even more unique and memorable experience.

Breckenridge Creative Arts offers workshops in media such as painting, drawing, metalsmithing, ceramics and more. Photo by Arthur Balluff

Breckenridge Creative Arts offers workshops in media such as painting, drawing, metalsmithing, ceramics and more. Photo by Arthur Balluff

Public art around the Riverwalk Center and Sculpture on the Blue feature realistic and abstract sculptures using a broad range of subject matter and materials. The sculptures invite public interaction, so don’t be afraid to touch — check out the map here.

Breckenridge’s Main Street also offers a few good galleries, including a local co-op called Arts Alive at the south end of town, and Art on a Whim, on the northern end of Main Street. Other galleries in town feature nature photography, as well as exceptionally fine art, like Breckenridge Gallery.

Breckenridge Music Festival and the National Repertory Orchestra both present grand orchestral and chamber music. Renowned and up-and-coming musicians spend their summer weeks filling Breckenridge with rousing music — and making it fun and accessible to people who otherwise would not find themselves in a concert hall.

Outdoor recreation

Breckenridge offers plenty of laid-back — and awe-inspiring — outdoor recreation opportunities, including summer options like biking along the Blue River, fly fishing on the Blue and hiking.

During the peak of summer (mid-June through mid-September), you can take a free gondola ride up to the base of Peak 7 or 8, and perhaps enjoy a stone hearth pizza or drink at Sevens Restaurant (Peak 7).

Fly fishing services like Breckenridge Outfitters offer expert guides year-round; they’ll tell you what and where the fish are biting and teach you how to cast, if you need tips.

Views can't be beat at Breckenridge's 27-hole, Jack Nicklaus designed golf course. Photo by Carl Scofield / Breckenridge Golf Club

Views can’t be beat at Breckenridge’s 27-hole, Jack Nicklaus designed golf course. Photo by Carl Scofield / Breckenridge Golf Club

Alpine Sports rents bikes, but they also provide a Vail Pass Bike Shuttle, which means you can start at the top of Vail Pass and coast down the 14 miles of smooth, paved bike path, which leads to Frisco. The scenic ride, which meanders through forests and near a river, is one of the best ways to experience the high elevation adventure, without getting out of breath.

Then, of course, there’s golfing at the Jack Nicklaus designed 27-hole, Breckenridge Golf Club. The town of Breckenridge is the only municipality in the world to own a 27-hole Nicklaus designed course, which offers plenty of challenge as it rolls through the valley. Elk nine provides the most elevation change. Bear’s fairway slopes right to left and is a fairly easy par four. On the Beaver Course, downhill putts add a bit of treachery. And, on the Elk 9, play strategically to avoid any hits over the water.

No matter where your interest lies — be it historical or architectural, nature oriented, arts and culture, or shopping and dining — Main Street Breckenridge provides plenty of activities for those who want to kick back.

Resources

Check out more top summer activities in Breckenridge, or visit GoBreck.com for the complete list of summer fun. If you’re already in town, stop by the Breckenridge Welcome Center at 203 S. Main St. for information, activity ideas and great views of Breckenridge Ski Resort.

 

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About The Author

Kimberly Nicoletti always knew she was meant to escape gray Chicago winters and spend her days skiing the Colorado Rockies. So, two months after she turned 18, she moved to Breckenridge to be a ski bum "for a season," assuring her parent's she'd return to Illinois to finish college. But, the ski bum life stuck. After three years of full-time skiing in Summit County, she decided to finish her degree at CU-Boulder in Creative Writing (granted, she took a semester off to ski). Once free of classes, she took yet another year off to ski in Summit (do you see a pattern here?). Then, she moved back to Boulder to earn her master's degree in Somatic Psychology/Dance Therapy. Upon graduation, she spent a winter teaching skiing at Mammoth Mountain. (Surely you see the pattern now.) In 2002, she moved back to Summit full time, to work at the Summit Daily as the arts and entertainment editor. She stayed with the company for 10 years, enjoying Summit's great events and later working as the managing editor of magazines covering the High Country. She still revolves her life around adventure and creativity, taking time to travel, ski, paddleboard, dance, ice skate, play with her dogs, learn new things and generally enjoy life. She's highly addicted to powder skiing and keeps her winter mornings commitment-free so she can indulge in "deep play" when Mother Nature cooperates. Off the mountain, she's a freelance writer and editor and teaches fitness and mind/body classes throughout Summit County.

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